Skip to content

LETTER: Pelham High: Getting the gang back together one last time

It's 50 years since Pelham District High School closed. The final planned reunion is coming in June

From September 1927 to June 1974, the Village of Fenwick was home to Pelham District High School. Located on the corner of Canboro Road and Balfour Street it accepted students from Fenwick, Ridgeville, Fonthill, North Pelham, Effingham, Wellandport, Wainfleet, West Lincoln, and parts of Welland and Thorold. Enrollment changed after 1958 when Thorold/Fonthill High School opened and students from the eastern parts went there. Then E. L. Crossley opened in 1963 and this was the beginning of the end for Pelham High.

We were a rural school in an agricultural community. A large number of students came from farms and did chores in the morning before coming to school. They could not stay after school for extra-curricular activities because they had to get on the bus and go back home to do those chores again. Many students had an hour-long bus ride to school and back home. Many struggled to buy books or gym suits, and many had to quit school at 16 so they could go to work and help support the family.

Most of us, as a school community, recognized these facts and perhaps this is one reason that we all had a strong bond with each other and have maintained friendships over the years.

We were fortunate to have a group of dedicated teachers and principals—E. L. Crossley, T. D. (Doug) Wallace, and E. A. (Bud) Ker—who expected the very best from us.

The former Pelham District High School building in Fenwick. After the school shut in 1974, it was turned into apartments. | PelhamToday Staff

We “Panthers” are a bunch of champions. It all started in 1934 when the girls basketball team won the COSSA Championship. The war years saw our boys and girls go and fight. Some did not return but one in particular, E. A.”Bud” Ker, came back with a Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary bravery as a skilled fighter pilot. He returned to Fenwick and Pelham High as a teacher, then Vice Principal, and then Principal.

Our alumni were involved in all walks of life but some have truly excelled. Marlene Stewart Streit is our celebrated golfer. Then there are our Olympians—Jane Haist, Tom Guinn, and Steve Bauer. The local airport is named after Dorothy (Wetherald) Rungeling, one of the original students at Pelham High. Let’s not forget the Mayors of the Town of Pelham: Marnie (Stains) Collins, Ralph Beamer, and our present head of council Mayor Marvin Junkin. It’s no wonder we are proud Panthers—you know we are the “original” Pelham Panthers with lots of glorious memories.

Ten years after the school closed, a group of us got a reunion together. In 1984 about 4,000 people came. These included students, teachers, and support staff. There was $10,000 left over that we put into the Pelham High Alumni Scholarship fund. Every year since 1985 we have given scholarships to students at E. L. Crossley Secondary School. As of 2023, the total was $70,000. This makes us very proud Panthers!

We had our eleventh Reunion in 2022 when 250 attended. We thought we would have once last reunion in 2024 to commemorate the fact that it has been 50 years since Pelham District High School closed its doors in 1974.

So, on Sunday, June 2nd from 1-4 PM, we will gather at the Royal Canadian Legion in Fonthill for our “last” Pelham High Reunion. If you haven’t done so already, please, email [email protected] or call 289-820-7004 to let us know your intentions.

See you at reunion!

Vilma Moretti